Wilson and His Peacemakers: American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919

By Arthur Walworth | Go to book overview

25

The Mandates

When the Covenant of the League of Nations was approved by the Peace Conference and presented to the Germans as a part of the Treaty of Versailles, the precise terms of the several mandates had not been defined. However, in preparing the treaty given to the Germans on May 7 the Supreme Council, with Wilson acquiescent, made provision at the last moment for the allotment of "B" and "C" mandates for almost all of Germany's overseas possessions. 1. Despite the remoteness of the United States from some of the territories, appeals were made to Wilson by the European governments immediately involved. They continued to look to him as the symbol of "justice" to their several concerns. For example, Hymans of Belgium wrote to him, as well as to Clemenceau, in protest against the assignment to British trusteeship of a small but densely populated part of German East Africa that was occupied by Belgian forces. 2.

The restraint exerted on the president by the temper of his people and their Congress delayed decision as to mandatories for months. A week before the signing at Versailles, Wilson accepted a recommendation of House that, until the Senate ratified the treaty, Americans should not participate in the work of the League of Nations except as advisers. 3. Individuals, however, could play a part in developing mandates. George Louis Beer was asked to take charge of the mandates section of the League. Regretting that the negotiations at the Peace Conference were "a constant source of shirking responsibility," he perceived that certain of the smaller nations were more jingoistic than the large, and that mawkish concepts of freedom and independence, encouraged by the principle of self-determination, were leading to the formation of frontiers that could not be easily changed. Beer appreciated the quality of adjustability that made the British colonial system, at its best, a medium for liberty when liberty was due; and he put his faith in the application of the ideal of trusteeship. He would give to the League's permanent Mandates Commission the right of inspection, which would serve as a check upon the creation of native armies as well as upon the protection of Christian missionaries and of the civic rights of the inhabitants. If a trust was violated, the League would have power to revoke the

____________________
1.
On the B and C Mandates and their assignment see above, pp. 76-77, 81, and Aaron M. Margolith, The International Mandates, pp. 28-34.

Hankey to Wilson, May 7, 1919, enclosing a copy of the agreement reached by the Council of Four, Wilson papers.

2.
Hymans to Wilson, May 9, 1919, enclosing a letter to Clemenceau protesting against the award to a mandate for east Africa to Great Britain, Wilson papers. Wilson was advised by Beer that the fundamental question was whether to turn over 4 million natives in Ruanda and Urundi to a Belgian colonial administration that, though recently not impossible, had operated in the Congo on principles wholly unsound, Beer to Wilson, May 12, 1919, Wilson papers; Milner to Wilson, May 12, 1919, copy in Milner papers, New College, Oxford, box 152; Beer diary, May 15, 1919. See W. R. Louis, Great Britain and Germany's Lost Colonies, 1914-1919, p. 151.
3.
House diary, June 20, 1919.

-485-

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